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Churches And Chapels

Written By Pauline Day.

The Parish church, dedicated to St. Peter, dates back to the days of Edward III and is a building of brick and stone including some Roman tiles. The battlemented tower containing a clock constructed in 1866 by Nathaniel Boosey of Great Yeldham, was rebuilt in the 16th century when the south porch was added. The tower also contains eight bells five dating back to the 17th century which were re-hung in 1912 and a new one added. In 1914 two more bells were added to complete an octave which made them one of the best peal of bells in the county.

The Hawkwood memorial is in the south aisle side chapel where a small altar is decorated with carvings of Hawks. At the opposite end of the South aisle the carved roof beams have a De Vere star and a pig carved by a carpenter who was possibly showing his dislike of the De Vere family who owned lands in the village as well as most of Castle Hedingham.

Some Mediaeval graffiti can be found on the pillars of the nave, in particular a face depicting a drawing of the devil with a large set of teeth and two horns.

The war shrine is situated in the North aisle and is made from oak removed from an old cadet training ship, H.M.S. Britannia. The memorial has folding doors which when open show the names of the 52 fallen of the first world war. The Parish War Memorial is in the churchyard near the main entrance and this records the names of the fallen in the two world wars. There were many men and women who went to these two wars and others since. Sir John Hawkwood was but the first of many brave soldiers in the village history.

The extensive churchyard is the only burial ground for the parish and has a grassed area where victims of an influenza epidemic were buried. The gravestones show not only the sadness of the deaths of some in their early years but the longevity of many of the residents. For example, in 1817 twelve people over 70 were interred, in 1922 Twelve with an average age of 98 and one in 1981 was 103 years old. To date there have been several in their Nineties and at present two living residents are over 100 years old.

The chancel was restored in 1890, paid for by the Reverend and Mrs. Henry Warburton, and the stained glass east window is a memorial to the Warburton's daughter. The choir stalls and the priest's stall in the Chancel were constructed in 1929, of finest oak, by local craftsmen from Ripper's woodworks. Encouraged by some very competent organists the choir has always been an asset to worship and shown great enthusiasm. In 1916 the choir boys actually went on strike because it was proposed that girls should be allowed to join. After a couple of weeks the Rector, supported by the adults, dismissed them and eventually some more were trained. However it was still an all male choir for some time but as time passed the ladies and girls were incorporated.

The Anglicans were very strong in the village but in the 1800's there was a deal of Evangelical influence occurring. The Baptist chapel next to the Sugar Loaves Public House was built in 1807 and another group of Baptists built theirs, The Rehoboth Strict Baptist chapel, in Swan Street. The Quakers also had a meeting house in Swan street which they sold to the Congregationalists in 1833. This eventually became the Constitutional hall and then private housing. There was also for a short time a chapel for the Primitive Methodists.

The Reverend Charles Haddon Spurgeon is also known to have preached at Sible Hedingham Baptist church at times. The Baptist church was formed in Sible Hedingham in 1805 and in 1807 erected the present meeting house on the Sugar Loaves hop ground. The Chapel was built on the understanding that it had no bells or clocks and looked like a house. It had to be a distance from the road and surrounded by trees. There thus was room to the rear and in the front for burials. The building consisted of large beams with lath and plaster and a stove was installed in the centre for heating. In 1822 the chapel was enlarged and in later years a vestibule, a Sunday school room and kitchen were added. In the 1980's the Victorian style pews, pulpit and the wooden floor were removed and replaced with a covered concrete floor and chairs giving an open plan which can be set out in various ways for activities and worship. The original schoolroom has been replaced by a more modern building with space, modern kitchen and toilet facilities making it suitable for playgroups, Sunday school etc.

The land to the rear of the chapel is now a grass area and the front is now suitable for car parking.


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